Category Archives: Riding

Rider Visibility

Road safety 101

Riding on the roads is an inevitable part of hacking out for many owners. Despite its place firmly in our horses’ routines, riders who enjoy roadwork tend to be few and far between. However, by breaking riding on the roads down into bitesize chunks, you’ll soon become more comfortable and confident when you get on the tarmac.

Ride safe
By following the Highway Code you’ll give yourself and your horse the best chance of staying safe. Much like riding a bicycle on the roads, you and your horse are considered a vehicle, so should operate on the road as such. This means riding on the left-hand side, indicating with your arms to signal your intent to turn and avoiding the pavement. Just like when you’re driving, being courteous and aware of your surroundings will help keep both you and other road users safe.

TOP TIP
If you need a reminder of the rules of the road, pick up a copy of the Highway Code or take a look at it online for free to refresh your memory. The BHS also run riding and road safety courses to help you feel more confident when out and about.

Brighten up
High-vis is an essential part of any rider’s hacking wardrobe, particularly if roadwork’s involved. While it might not be a legal requirement, it’s recommended that you and your horse wear at least one piece of high-vis clothing each, and that you use a variety of colours, too. By mixing colours you give yourself a better chance of being seen, particularly with unnatural colours, such as pink, which don’t blend into your surroundings. Many high-vis products also feature reflective strips that, while less effective during the day, come into their own at times of poorer visibility, reflecting headlights and making you more obvious to other road users. Wearing plenty of high-vis will give you confidence that you’ll be seen on the roads and be kept much safer as a result.

TOP TIP
Look for high-vis products that meet BSI approved standards – either BSEN1150 or EN1150.

Train smart
Roadwork provides a hard, even surface that’s rarely rendered unusable by a downpour typical of a UK winter. This gives you plenty of opportunity to ride out of the school, even when the local bridleways have become virtually inaccessible. However, setting your horse up for success is an important part of safe road riding. The more traffic your horse sees, the more comfortable and confident he’ll become. Begin by going out with a friend and their experienced mount outside rush hour, allowing your horse to become accustomed to standing quietly as the rest of the world rushes by. The acclimatised your horse becomes, the calmer he’ll be out on the roads – a horse who’s dancing about on the road is a danger to not only himself and you, but other road users, too.

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Horses for courses

Choosing a riding discipline can sometimes seem very black or white – do you want to jump, or do you prefer flatwork? If you don’t fancy going round in circles or spending hours training for a 90 second chance to jump clear, you don’t have to feel left out. From horseball to endurance, go beyond the traditional.

High-stakes Horseball

With all the adrenaline of chasing a ball at full gallop, horseball offers a way to combine your love of super-speedy riding with some spectacular stunts. Played in teams of four, horseball is principally similar to other ball sports, with players passing between each other to score in a hoop defended by the other team. If the ball’s dropped, a rider must pick it up without dismounting – you best be flexible for this one! Games are played for 20 minutes with a three minute break in the middle, so it really is a game for the fast and furious. You don’t have to ride your own horse – although many people do, there are plenty of riding schools who offer clinics on their own horses to help you get involved.

Exhilarating Endurance

Whether it’s a friendly five-mile ride with friends, or a monster, 100-mile competition you’re after, endurance offers every level you could want. Running over 100 events per year, and aiming to provide opportunities for riders of all levels and ambitions, endurance could be the perfect discipline for you. Rides are divided into sections called legs or phases, which, at the higher levels, are separated by veterinary inspections to ensure your horse is sound and fit to carry on. Events run all over the country and offer huge variety in terrain depending on where you go – natural obstacles such as banks, rivers and ditches will become a familiar thrill in no time. Endurance offers a real sense of adventure with which many equine disciplines simply can’t compete.

Polocrosse perfection

Another thrilling team sport, polocrosse is played across the world and offers riders the chance to put their control, speed and nerve to the test. Played in two teams of three, who each play alternate rounds, or chukkas, of eight minutes each, polocrosse follows similar rules to polo, and the season runs from May to September. At international level a pool of horses are used to play, however you can ride any horse at the lower levels – you’ll find everything from Thoroughbreds to Haflingers on the pitch! There’s even an award for retrained racehorses that play polocrosse, so there’s no excuse not to give it a go.

Pick your passion

With alternative disciplines becoming ever more popular on the circuit, there’s never been a better time to have a go at something new with your horse. Consider both of your strengths – be it speed, agility or toughness – and what it is you want out of an event – a team feel, thrill ride or test of your nerve. Take a look at the national organisations for your potential new discipline and get talking to some existing members – you might just make some friends for life.

For all your equestrian needs visit bridlewayequestrian.com

Walk this way

An often overlooked part of competition day, there’s no doubt that course walking is a real skill. However, you don’t have to jump as many rounds as a Whitaker to learn the tricks of the trade.

Finding your feet

Walking your course gives you a great opportunity to take a good look around the arena before you start focusing on what you’re jumping. It’s important to physically walk your course, rather than just point out the fences in order.

Work out any areas where you can save time – reducing the risk of time penalties, or handy in a timed section or jump-off – and spot places where you should take a wider turn to get the perfect line. Similarly, if your horse is green it’s handy to look out for any banners or particularly spooky fillers, as you may need to give him a little reassurance.

TOP TIP: Bear in mind that the more you worry about fillers, the more likely your horse is to have a look. Ride positively, but try not to panic on the approach.

When the going gets rough

While many venues are fortunate enough to have surfaced arenas to hold their jumping on, you won’t be so lucky everywhere you go. Walking the course gives you a super opportunity to get to grips with the ground and any undulations on course, so you’ll be prepared to adjust your horse’s canter where needed. Fences approached downhill will need a more contained canter than those ridden uphill, for example.

Where your round has been preceded by inclement British weather, you’ll likely find the going will get deep in places. You might need to take a different line, perhaps jumping slightly off centre, to avoid the mud. Walking the course is the prime opportunity to consider this.

TOP TIP: Set out two poles with three of your steps between them. If your horse canters through comfortably, this is the length of his stride. Play around with the distance between the poles until you find the perfect length for your horse so you’ll know how a distance will ride when you walk courses in future.

Double trouble

On course, a one-stride double will walk on eight of your strides, and a two stride should walk on 12. This accounts for two of your strides on both take-off and landing, too.

If the combination walks slightly shorter for your horse, you’ll need to ride a more contained canter to meet the second part in the right place. Equally, a short-striding horse may need some encouragement to move on over the ground. Consider the type of fences that make up the combination, too. An upright first element and an oxer out of the combination will require a contained canter in, then positive riding through the middle. However, the opposite will need a powerful, but not rushed, approach and for you to encourage your horse to shorten his stride to jump out clear over the upright.

For all your equestrian needs visit bridlewayequestrian.com 

Mark it up!

Get to grips with your dressage test and give your marks a boost with our tips

This month, we help you find the key to riding a quality dressage test and giving your marks a leg up. Whatever’s giving you trouble, we’ll cover all angles to get a great dressage test out of you and your horse.

  1. Absolute accuracy

Many riders throw away marks by not being accurate, so ensuring you are is a great way to stand out and put yourself above the competition. Any movements performed at a marker should happen as your shoulder passes it. This might mean you need to start asking a little earlier if your horse is behind your leg, or half halt to balance him beforehand. Practise this by riding transitions at your markers until you can be sure your horse will respond as soon as you ask him a question, as this will help you ride exactly as the test dictates, gaining you those handy extra marks.

  1. Walk this way

A pace that’s often forgotten, your horse’s walk is still an important part of your dressage test. Encourage him to march on, taking the rein forward even when you’re warming up or cooling down, as this sets the precedent for all your work. With double marks available for the free rein walk, make sure you allow your hips to swing with your horse’s movement and gradually loosen the rein to push him forward and stretch down. If you drop the rein too quickly, you’ll find his stretch will be inconsistent, and he may throw his head up. Then, make sure you don’t lose any of that impulsion when you then pick him back up again. He should track up and seek the contact in all three of his paces, so be disciplined and maintain that dedication whatever the gait.

  1. Give and take

Introduced at even the lowest levels of dressage, a good give and retake can be a tough trick to tackle. Initially, you’ll only be required to give one rein, and you may find it easier to practise on the long side to start with. You could ride a 10m circle first to help him use his hocks and come off the forehand, then proceed up the long side and have a go at your give and retake. Get used to riding him off your leg and seat, alternately giving your reins at random during your schooling session. You’ll quickly learn when you need to put a little more leg on or stay a bit quieter in your seat to maintain that steady outline. Gradually build up to trying on a circle, ensuring that your horse can maintain the bend by himself using your inside leg. This will then ensure that your horse is between both your legs when you go on to give and retake both reins.

Practising at home and implementing this tips throughout your test are super ways to boost your marks this competition season. Discipline is key with whatever you’re doing, so get used to riding a quality walk and create those good habits now. There’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared by a brand new movement you haven’t seen before, so practise your give and retakes throughout your sessions so they become second nature.

For all your equestrian need visit bridlewayequestrian.com

It’s Show(ing) Time!

Showing Season is upon us! If you’re taking the plunge and entering your first ever show this summer, this blog will help you and your horse feel ready to shine.

Showing is all about preparation – from your horse’s fitness routine and building that all-important top line, to perfect plaits, last-minute touch-ups and ring etiquette. As you get ready for your first show, our top tips and essentials will help cover what you need to know.

Show ring shine

Good health and nutrition is key to having a horse who positively shines, but there’s a whole lot more to good turnout. Unless you’re showing a native type, ensure his mane is pulled or trimmed to a suitable length for plaiting. We’d recommend that you do this at least a week before your show to give the mane time to settle.

The day before your show, treat your horse to a bit of pampering and give them a full bath – make sure you pay particular attention to any white markings! If your horse is prone to rolling, a lightweight sheet will help to keep him clean overnight without overheating. A Universal Sheet or Waffle Cooler are great choices for this as their wicking properties offer safe cooling too. Once you’ve finished cleaning your horse, make sure your your grooming kit is clean and ready to take with you for any last minute touch-ups your horse might need on the day.

Essential Kit list

If you’re able to pack the lorry the night before, you’ll help take some of the pressure off getting ready. Here’s our handy list of things you might need to take:

  • Spare headcollar and leadrope
  • Water container and two buckets (one for drinking and one for washing)
  • Grooming kit, including sponges, conditioning spray and plaiting kit
  • Cooler rug
  • Haynet
  • Saddle (with a close fitting plain coloured numnah if required)
  • Plain brown bridle
  • Tweed or navy jacket (depending on your class)
  • Appropriate standard riding hat with velvet cover and hairnet
  • Beige or canary breeches
  • Shirt and tie or plain coloured stock
  • Long riding boots (keep them smart by using a boot bag)
  • Show cane (if using)
  • Plain coloured leather gloves

Top Tip

Grooming kit bags with lots of pockets are really handy as they keep all your brushes organised and ensure everything is easy to find.

On the day

On the morning of your competition, clean off any stains and section his mane ready for plaiting. The number of plaits will depend largely on the length and shape of your horse’s neck – but 9-11 is a good starting point.

Top Tip

Don’t condition your horse’s mane if you plan to plait as it will make the hair slippery.

When you arrive at the showground, check in with the secretary to collect your number and check which arena your class is in. Allow plenty of time to warn up your horse and get him settled in the exciting showground atmosphere.

When it’s time to go in, remember these etiquette essentials…

  • Always leave one-and-a-half to two horse’s lengths between your horse and the horse in front.
  • Never overtake the horse in front of you. Either ride deep into the corner to create more space or circle away and find a bigger gap amongst the other horses.
  • Keep an eye on the steward so that you’re clear when they instruct you to trot and canter.
  • Wait to be called into line, then watch the other competitors ride their individual show and plan yours – making sure you show trot and canter on each rein.
  • When it’s your turn, step forward from the line before riding a halt transition and saluting the judge.
  • At the end of your show you should also halt and salute before returning to your place in the line up.

Most of all, make sure you enjoy your first showing adventure with your horse!

Best of luck!

Winter training tips from Bridleway Equestrian

Winter training exercises to get you and your horse ready for spring

If, like many, your horse has been enjoying a bit of a break over the winter, you might be hoping to kick-start the year with some productive time in the saddle. Here are some simple-but-effective exercises for you to try.

Exercise 1: Fitness first

Before asking your horse to tackle a long and difficult schooling session, it’s important you make sure his fitness levels are up to the task – particularly if he’s been completely out of work for a few weeks. It might mean three, four or more weeks of purely hacking, but it could mean the difference between your horse having a complete and successful competition season or picking up an injury along the way.

Once your horse is hacking comfortably for an hour or more a day with plenty of trot and canter work, incorporating hillwork will help boost his fitness. It works and strengthens all areas of his body, and combining it with transitions will go a long way to improving his muscle tone, too.

Try cantering up a hill, walking back down and repeating. Combined with the additional intensity of going uphill, these bursts of intensity followed by recovery – also known as interval training – will help strengthen your horse’s respiratory system and build him up to the sustained cardiovascular efforts he’ll have to make in competition.

Top tip: vary your hillwork by occasionally walking and trotting up hills as well as cantering, otherwise your horse may start to anticipate canter at the bottom of them.

Exercise 2: Side to side

Once your horse has attained a level of fitness that will allow you to school him for a sustained period, incorporating leg-yield in walk, trot and canter will help him become more flexible and supple through his shoulders, back and pelvis, while encouraging him to come through from behind in order to make the effort to cross his legs while maintaining his rhythm.

Start by asking for leg-yield from the three-quarter line to the track, and when you’re both comfortable, try from the track to the three quarter line, continuing straight for a few strides before leg-yielding back. To add a further challenge, try to reach the centre line as you leg-yield down the arena long side.

Exercise 3: Making shapes

If you’re hoping to get some jumping outings under your belt, cracking the code to the perfect canter and approach is a key part of your training. You can achieve this by riding a simple rectangle. This will help you achieve and maintain an active rhythm, while encouraging you to use your inside and outside aids evenly and engaging your horse’s hindquarters underneath him.

Working between the track and the centre line, place a marker just inside the track at M and F, and just inside the centre line at D and G. Place a pole horizontally at X. Each marker should prompt you to turn as if you’ve reached a T-junction – a 90° angle to follow the line of the rectangle shape. Focus on using your outside leg to prompt him to turn, rather than pulling him round with your inside rein. Try in walk first, before progressing to trot and canter, and try swapping your pole for a small jump.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

 

 

 

Handling the Heat – 10 Tips for Better Summer Riding

The UK is currently experiencing the longest heatwave it’s had in five years. Over lots of cool water and an ice cream or two, Bridleway’s team have been discussing how we, and our horses, have been coping with this beautiful but troublesome weather.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you handle the heat when riding this summer:

  1. Change your routine
    Ride in the coolest parts of the day, avoiding the midday sun. Get up early or wait a bit longer in the evening before riding to make sure you and your horse don’t overheat when you’re out. Consider stabling your horse during the hottest part of day too, as this will protect them from the sun and pesky flies.
  2. Use fly spray AFTER you tack up
    A good fly spray is a lifesaver for horse and rider in the summer months, as it is the peak season for horseflies and midges. However, remember to only apply to your horse’s coat after you’ve tacked up – fly spray under a confined area, like the saddle, can cause irritation when your horse sweats.
  3. Choose breathable fabric for your horse
    Even when riding during the cooler parts of the day, keeping your horse dry and cool is important. By choosing a saddlecloth and girth that are made with a breathable or wicking fabric, your horse will stay comfortable. Saddlecloths made from a quick-dry fabric will draw away moisture from your horse and keep him cool. Plus, an ergonomic girth like the Contour Comfort Girth allows greater airflow and reduces moisture, minimising the risk of rubbing or chafing.
  4. Protect yourself
    Whether you’re riding in an open arena, hacking out, or just doing yard work, remember to keep yourself protected too. Stay in the shade where possible, regularly top up your sun cream, and wear breathable clothing, like riding tights or a base layer. The base layer’s moisture wicking properties will keep you feeling fresh, and longer sleeves, whilst sounding counterproductive, will protect your skin from the sun and do a better job at keeping you cool than short sleeves.
  5. Stay hydrated
    Whilst long hacks aren’t advisable during the hottest parts of the day, if you are out for a while, take supplies with you in a handy bum bag. A bottle of water and an energy bar will keep you going and help replace the nutrients and water you’ll lose when you sweat. Offer your horse water on return from your ride and don’t forget to have a drink yourself.
  6. Use a fly veil
    Your horse’s ears are a sensitive spot that flies love to attack. Keeping them covered with a fly veil can protect them from biting insects and have the added benefits of blocking noise and looking good too (especially when paired with a matching saddlecloth!).
  7. Avoid still or stagnant water
    From puddles to ponds, areas of still water are a breeding ground for midges. If your usual hack takes you near a pond, try and find an alternative route to stop your horse getting pestered.
  8. Take it steady
    A lack of rain and constant sunshine dries out the ground, making for uncomfortable footing for your horse. When hacking, try to avoid riding too quickly on hard ground or rocky surfaces. Keep to a walk or trot, as this is less likely to cause damage to your horse’s legs. Stick to an arena for your faster paced schooling work.
  9. Don’t forget the cool down
    Once you’ve returned from your ride, take your time to cool your horse down properly. Sponging or hosing him off will help bring his temperature down and a good body wash brush and sweat scraper will help make the process easier. Don’t forget to reapply the fly spray once he’s dry and pop on a fly mask and lightweight fly sheet for extra protection.
  10. Make cooling treats for your horse
    After a warm ride, your horse will need to cool down and stay hydrated. Help him by using handy tricks that encourage him to drink more, such as adding apples for him to bob for in his water trough or bucket. Another fun idea is to create a frozen horse lick with water and chopped up apples and carrot. He’ll be cool, hydrated and kept amused with his very own ice lolly!

Hopefully these 10 tips will help you and your horse stay comfortable and make the most of this British heatwave.

For all of your summer equestrian needs, visit your local Bridleway stockist or  www.bridlewayequestrian.com

Perfect Protection

For all horsey people, their trusty four-legged friend’s safety is paramount and thankfully, there’s a wealth of kit available to fit every horse, from fine-boned Thoroughbreds to chunky cobs.

However, it’s also important to consider your own safety. Rider protection takes many different forms, be it high-visibility clothing or riding hat bags to cushion your most vital piece of safety gear.

Best foot forward

Boots and bandages come in a wide range of colours and styles, and can be used for a variety of purposes, including competition, travel and training, to help protect your horse from cuts and bumps while he’s out and about. Brushing boots are suitable for daily exercise, while over reach boots help protect the bulbs of his heels. The Bridleway Fleece Trimmed Quick Fit Over Reach Boots are available with a fleece lining that reduces the risk of rubbing or discomfort.

Shine bright

Making sure you can be seen is essential while hacking out, especially on the road. A simple piece of high-viz, such as a hatband or vest, helps you to be seen up to two seconds earlier by other road users. Bridleway’s stunning range of orange high-viz clothing is designed to make you and your horse stand out while out on the road.

Buzz off

At the height of the summer, pesky flies irritate us all. Relieve the stress by kitting your horse out with fly masks, veils and rugs to reduce the risk of fly bites and to help alleviate itching. Choose from Bridleway’s range of fly rugs and team up with a fly mask to create the best combination for your horse to keep him fly free. For ultimate fly protection, treat him to a Bridleway Sweet-Itch Bug Stoppa rug, which has breathable fabric to keep him cool on a hot summer’s day. In addition, liberal use of fly spray is a good idea, and you can also buy creams or gels for sensitive areas.

Ahead of the game

Protecting your head is the first port of call for rider protection, but it’s also important to protect your helmet. Invest in a padded hat bag to keep your hat safe from dirt and damage while on the move. Many bags include pockets to store extra essentials such as gloves, which help to protect your hands and improve your grip on the reins.

Protection is priceless for both yourself and your horse, so head over to bridlewayequestrian.com for all your safety needs.

jumping success Bridleway Equestrian

Jumping success – exercises to try at home

Jumping at home is something a lot of riders enjoy, but without the help of an instructor it can be hard to know what to work on. Setting up one fence to pop over a few times on each rein might be fun for a few minutes, but there’s not much for you and your horse to learn from it. Here are a few simple exercises to help inspire you to take your jumping at home to the next level.

On the grid

Gridwork is very effective for improving horse and rider technique and confidence. A line of fences in quick succession encourages your horse to concentrate and pick up his feet, while your position is tested as the lower leg becomes an anchor, and the urge to over-fold must be resisted.

Another benefit of gridwork is being safe in the knowledge that you’ll hit every fence on a perfect stride and in a powerful canter every time. Using a grid to set you both up to a stride or two before an oxer makes trying bigger fences feel easier and less daunting.

Start with a three-bounce fence in a line, each 3–3.7m apart, and a fourth another 6.4-7.5m away to ride as one canter stride. Remember to build the fences up slowly – don’t just ask your horse to tackle the whole grid from the word go as this might knock his confidence.

A different angle

Jumping fences on angles encourages your horse to think on his feet and will give you a real advantage in a jump-off situation. After you’ve warmed him up over a couple of fences, set up a small upright in the middle of the school for ease of approach from A on both reins. Keep the place pole under the original line of the fence, but move the right-hand wing around slightly towards E. This will create an angled, corner-shape fence with a ground line that’s easy for your horse to interpret.

As your horse grows in confidence, you can create a steeper angle with the fence and even place the ground line directly beneath it to make the exercise more challenging.

Get creative

The most important aspect of your jumping is that both you and your horse enjoy yourselves. If you’ve been asking a lot of him recently with difficult exercises and competitions, why not try taking a more relaxed approach to jumping every once in a while – it’s possible to do this and still teach him something.

Instead of demanding a high degree of technical accuracy, try jumping some small yet unusual obstacles he might not have encountered before. Maybe you have some plastic barrels lying around, or some tarpaulin that can be fashioned into a makeshift water tray? Asking him to approach some new and interesting fences will not only boost experience and bravery, it’ll give you the chance to learn how to ride positively into fences he may have doubts about.

Don’t forget to protect your horse’s legs with boots when you’re jumping. See Bridleway Equestrian’s range of affordable boots and bandages at bridlewayequestrian.com.

Keep him supple with our schooling tips for hacking

Varying your riding environment is an important part of keeping your horse happy and interested in his work – you don’t want to stay at home doing the same things every day and neither would he. Using your hacking time to occupy his mind and work on any schooling issues in a fun, pressure-free environment is really beneficial, particularly if you don’t have easy access to an arena. Here are some tips to get you started

Long and low

Asking your horse to take up the contact and stretch into a long-and-low outline can be an effective warm up. Not only does it encourage him to relax into the contact, he’ll also raise and engage his back, working the muscles that support a correct ridden frame. Be sure to work him gradually down so that contact is maintained – if you just drop your reins, you’ll loose your connection.

Time to flex

Keeping your horse’s body straight and his gait forward, use your rein to ask him to flex from one side, then to the centre, then to the other side. This exercise will warm him up while testing his suppleness and obedience. It’ll also free up his neck, preparing him for any more complex questions you’ll ask of him later.

Side to side

The flat, stable surface of a quiet path is a perfect setting for asking your horse to leg-yield. This movement requires him to use his whole body and reinforces the idea that your leg aid doesn’t just mean go, but can also mean move away. This exercise requires straightness and engagement, so is a good indicator of how well he’s working. It’ll also reveal any corrections you need to make in your riding or his way of going. Make sure you check the path is clear of pedestrians both ways before attempting a leg-yield.

Shoulder showdown

Now he’s warmed up through his neck and back, you can start asking your horse to engage through his whole body by asking for shoulder-fore, Make use of hedges and fence lines to help guide your horse as you ask his front end to bend slightly away while keeping him travelling forwards. However, be sure not to allow him to over-bend.

Going in circles

Coming across an open field out on a hack is a huge bonus because you can use it as a giant school. Take the opportunity to play with the space, performing transitions, circles and changes of bend through serpentine work to encourage suppleness. Be vigilant to falling out, though, as there won’t be any fences to help prop your horse up!

Don’t forget visibility for you and your horse when you’re out and about. For high-viz and everything you’ll need out on a hack, visit bridlewayequestrian.com